News brief 21 September 2012
The reactions in the Arab world to the degrading YouTube-video of the Prophet Mohammed continued during the week. In order to avoid further unrest, Youtube banned the video in Egypt, Libya and Saudi Arabia. A public prosecutor in Egypt ordered that seven US-based Egyptian Copts be tried over their role in the “Innocence of Mohammed” whilst Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, encouraged protests in Lebanon against the film.
On Thursday, the French magazine Charlie Hebdo decided to publish caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed, which has resulted in increased security at French embassies across the Middle East as well as demonstrations in Teheran and calls for actions against the magazine. In Tunisia, authorities banned Friday demonstrations for fear of violence related to the cartoons.
In Libya, the consequences after last week’s killing of the US Ambassador Chris Stevens, continued with the firing of the security chief in Benghazi, the resignation of another high security official and an announcement from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that an official review of the attacks will be made. Reports were also released which described how Libyans tried to save the ambassador’s life after the attack.
The battles continued to rage in Syria with fighters from Libya joining the rebels and training camps set up for young men who wish to join the rebel movement. In the international realm, Friends of Syria group seek to increase sanctions towards the Assad regime while the Iranian foreign minister paid a visit to the country to discuss peace efforts. At the same time, the UN released a report describing gross human rights violations. The rebels secured important strategic ground when they seized another border crossing into Turkey.
In Iraq, violence continued with one attack within the Green Zone and another in a police station north of Baghdad, killing one policeman and five civilians.
The small Gulf state of Bahrain was the target of criticism from human rights groups due to the failure to fulfill the reforms promises from last year. The kingdom responded to the complaints and claimed to have accepted up to 90 % of the reforms proposed by the UN Human Rights Council.
In Egypt, a NGO said that an Egyptian was tortured to death and another shot by the police north of Cairo, which led to protests in the village of Mit Ghamr. President Morsi named Mohammed Raafat Shehata as new chief of intelligence.
Tensions surrounding Iran’s nuclear program continues and Western states urged the country on Thursday that ”time was running out” regarding a nuclear accord. However, the US warned Israel that a strike on Iran would threaten peace treaties around the Arab world. Israel, on its part, chose to not be present at an upcoming conference on a nuclear-free Middle East.
In Jordan, journalists voiced concern regarding new amendments to the press and publications law, warning that they threatened freedom of expression.
Palestinians raged over the comments made by US presidential candidate Mitt Romney regarding a two-state solution while Salafists were resentful over Hamas’ crackdown in Gaza. On Thursday, an Israeli air strike killed two and wounded one in the Gaza strip.
Oil rich Saudi Arabia has so far donated as much as 3,7 billion US dollars in aid to Arab Spring countries. The kingdom has pledged nearly $17.9 billion in support to fellow Arabs.
In the UAE, detained Islamists admitted plans to overthrow the current regime.
On Tuesday, the UN Security Council expressed concern over the increasing humanitarian crisis in Yemen as well as the ongoing efforts to undermine the transition process.